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Fast Break: Celtics vs. Hornets 02.10.10 at 10:34 pm ET
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At what point does a string of bad performances become a problem that can’t be fixed? At what point does the Celtics uninspired second-half play inspire Danny Ainge to do something to change the mix?

Ainge was a guest on The Big Show hours before the Celtics collapsed (again) in the third quarter of a 93-85 loss to the Hornets Wednesday night and said he was, “not ready to blow it up.” [Click here for a full transcript]. If the Magic breakdown wasn’t enough to change Ainge’s mind, was this one?

There’s a week to go before the trade deadline and the Celtics have shown few signs of breaking out of their funk, which has now stretched to 23 games. The Celtics are 10-13 over that span. Is that the real Celtics, or is it the team that started the season winning 22 of the first 27 games? That’s the question Ainge has to answer, and time is running out.

Player of the Game: Darren Collison. The Hornets rookie who was starting in place of the injured Chris Paul routinely broke down the Celtics defense with dribble penetration and finished with 25 points and nine assists. When Collison wasn’t getting into the paint, he killed them with his pull-up jump shot.

Turning Point: Once again the Celtics collapse started with a sluggish offense and carried over to a lackluster defensive effort. The Celtics actually held serve with the Hornets until the 7:26 mark of the third quarter. That was when Morris Peterson and Peja Stojakovic began to heat up from behind the arc. The 3-point barrage was eerily similar to the Magic game, as was the Celtics lack of an answer on offense.

* Ray Allen was scratched about an hour before the game with back spasms. It was the first game Allen has missed this season.

* The Celtics started off hot, but the Hornets got hotter making eight of their first 10 shots.The C’s also turned the ball over nine times in the first quarter.

* The second unit rode to the rescue, at least momentarily, with an inspired effort. With all five starters on the bench, the reserves opened up a nine-point lead in the second quarter. They did most of their damage down low as Glen Davis (nine points) and Rasheed Wallace (eight points) took advantage of mismatches against the Hornets reserve big men.

* Eddie House and Marquis Daniels also played the entire quarter ahead of starters Rajon Rondo and Tony Allen.

* Paul Pierce did play despite pain in his left foot. After 13 points in the first half, Pierce scored just two points in the second.

* The Celtics made just 3-of-13 free throws during a stretch of the second half.

* Daniels and Wallace were the only Celtics who played strong games. They combined for 27 points, seven rebounds and six assists.

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Celtics vs. Hornets: Third quarter wrap at 9:57 pm ET
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The Celtics starters came out with better energy to start the second half, but worse execution. The Hornets began to chip away at the lead as Morris Peterson and Peja Stojakovic heated up from 3-point range, giving this game the familiar feel of the Orlando nightmare from over the weekend.

Doc Rivers went to his bench earlier than usual in an attempt to change the flow of the game, but the Hornets kept making shots. The Celtics also missed six straight free throws, which didn’t help the cause. When it was over, New Orleans had outscored the Celtics, 29-12 and taken a 72-67 lead.

They have 12 minutes to turn this thing around, or face a host of uncomfortable questions over the next week.

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Celtics vs. Hornets: Halftime wrap at 9:12 pm ET
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After an opening quarter in which the Celtics turned the ball over nine times, the second unit rode to the rescue with an inspired effort. With all five starters on the bench, the reserves opened up a nine-point lead, which became a 55-43 edge at the break.

The Celtics did much of their damage down low as Glen Davis (nine points) and Rasheed Wallace (eight points) took advantage of mismatches against the Hornets reserve big men. Eddie House and Marquis Daniels also played the entire quarter ahead of Rajon Rondo and Tony Allen. Paul Pierce leads the Celtics with 13 points.

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Celtics vs. Hornets: First quarter wrap at 8:41 pm ET
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The Celtics started off hot, but the Hornets got hotter making eight of their first 10 shots in a back-and-forth first quarter that ended with New Orleans holding a 29-27 lead. Playing without Ray Allen, who was sent back to the team hotel with bask spasms, the Celtics turned the ball over nine times.

Paul Pierce did play, however, and he led the Celtics with nine points. Rookie Darren Collison and big man David West each scored eight points for the Hornets. New Orleans coach Jeff Bower picked up a technical foul in the opening minutes.

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Preview: Celtics vs. Hornets at 10:09 am ET
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This marks the end of the unofficial first half of the regular season and the Celtics remain something of an enigma. Despite all their struggles over the last month and a half, the Celtics remain one of the top teams in the league according to all the best indicators–record, point differential, etc.

Since Christmas, however, the Celtics are just 10-12. That’s a significant chunk of the season in which they have played more like the Bulls then the Cavaliers, the latter of which has won 19 of 22 games during that same stretch.

Coming out of the All-Star break the Celtics go on a long west coast trip and will endure a March in which they play 17 games in 31 days. At the beginning of the season that looked like a good time to give their veteran players some rest before the playoffs. Now it looks like a survival test.

CELTICS (32-17, 5-5 last 10)

Points Per Game: 99.0

Points Allowed: 93.7

Differential: +5.3 (4th)

Offensive Efficiency: 107.7 (13th)

Defensive Efficiency: 101.9 (1st)

Pace: 91.4 (22nd)

Likely Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Tony Allen Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

Injuries: Paul Pierce (Foot)

HORNETS (27-25, 4-6, last 10)

Points Per Game: 100.2

Points Allowed: 101.5

Differential: -1.3 (19th)

Offensive Efficiency: 107.4 (14th)

Defensive Efficiency: 108.9 (20th)

Pace: 92.1 (19th)

Likely Starters: Darren Collison, Morris Peterson, Peja Stojakovic, David West, Emeka Okafor

Injuries: Chris Paul (Knee), Marcus Thornton (Back, questionable) Read the rest of this entry »

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Video: Doc Rivers addresses the press at practice 02.09.10 at 2:00 pm ET
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Doc: C’s ‘lean back too far on what they’ve done’ 02.08.10 at 5:31 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Like everyone else, Doc Rivers has had his fill of his players saying they’re better than what they’ve been showing on the court of late.

‘€œI think when you have a veteran team, there are several pitfalls,” Rivers said following practice Monday. “One, you’€™re a veteran team. Two, we’€™ll turn it on. I don’€™t buy into that, never have. Three, leaning back on your past success. Your past success is no guarantee to future success. I think this team leans back too far on what they’€™ve done and we have to get to work on what we’€™re going to do and I think that’€™s what we have to do a better job of.’€

[Click here to hear Doc talk about his team.]

In the words of a famous football coach who coached the Patriots in the 1990s, ‘You are what your record says you are.’  For the Celtics, a 32-17 mark is good for third in the East behind Cleveland and Orlando.

He paraphrased Bill Parcells for his players on Monday before, during and after a practice.

‘€œEnough with the talk,” Rivers said. “That’€™s basically it. I had a Conga line in my office today. That’€™s great, though. Guys want to do the right thing. I don’€™t think we have bad guys on our team, I know we don’€™t. But we have to do [right things]. All we keep talking, ‘€˜You’€™re right and we’€™re going to do it,’€™ but we’€™re not doing it. That’€™s what we have to do.’€

Monday was a good first step in a process that figures more like a grind as the team faces road games in the next two weeks against the Hornets, Lakers, Trail Blazers and Nuggets.

‘€œThey responded with a great practice so that’€™s good,” Rivers said. “But we have to, we have to get back to work, that workman’€™s mentality. We have to get back to wanting to be the best defensive team in the NBA. We have to get back to executing better. We can’€™t just rely on guys coming back off injury. That has thrown us off a little bit because of lack of practice time and all that, but I think that’€™s becoming an excuse around here. Read the rest of this entry »

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